Solicitors for Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding want system 'tightened up' to protect both parties
Solicitors for Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding have called for changes to Northern Ireland’s legal system to reflect the process in the Republic, after the end of their high-profile rape trial.
Mr Jackson and Mr Olding, along with Blane McIlroy and Rory Harrison, were found not guilty of all charges.
Mr Olding’s solicitor Paul Dougan called for the system here to be “tightened up” to provide better protection for both defendants and complainants in such trials.
“The complainant has a statutory entitlement to anonymity, and that’s a life-long entitlement, and yet there were instances of that being breached, in particular on social media, by persons that were in the public gallery,” he told BBC Radio Ulster.
“That is completely unacceptable and that law is well established so that certainly would need to be tightened up.”
He said there needed to an understanding of the importance of, and respect for, those legislative provisions by people visiting a court room.
“On a more radical basis perhaps, I can certainly see merit in the way the system for cases like this would operate in the Republic of Ireland,” he said.
“There, there is anonymity for defendants in rape trials until the verdict is given, depending on then how the verdict goes.
“Some of those cases are held in camera, there’s no public access per se, and that can clearly control what emerges from the court room and how it is consumed and disseminated by people outside the court process.”
Mr Dougan said Mr Olding had run a “gauntlet” of media attention when entering court every day, which was an “added pressure in what is already a very pressurised environment”.
“I’m sure he would welcome anything that would make that an easier thing to manage given — in this case nine weeks of that almost on a daily basis and then the wall to wall coverage in the media and in the newspapers, you know, Monday to Friday and then every weekend,” he said.
Joe McVeigh, who acted for Mr Jackson in the case, also backed the legal system in the Republic.
He said that the case had been played out in the international spotlight.
“The position is that the events of that night were turned into a drama in front of the public gaze, in fact in front of the gaze of the world,” he told RTE.
“There has been international interest in this case, not just Irish interest.”
Mr McVeigh said the woman at the centre of the trial and her family had also been let down.
“It’s common knowledge the name of this young lady, and if I was this young lady and if I were her parents I would be absolutely appalled,” he said.
“They were given assurances before this trial would have commenced that the young woman’s identity would be kept secret.
“It’s impossible to do that when you have got an open court filled to the brim with members of the public for nine solid weeks, where her name is used openly throughout the trial.
“The safeguards that that young woman thought were in place to protect her identity, they were non-existent, and our system here in the north currently pays lip service to those types of protections.
“The system in the south is the way it should go at the very least.”